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Don Cornelius Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Spouse (2)  | Trade Mark (4)  | Trivia (85)  | Personal Quotes (19)

Overview (5)

Born in Chicago, Illinois, USA
Died in Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles, California, USA  (self-inflicted gunshot wound)
Birth NameDonald Cortez Cornelius
Nickname The World's Coolest Uncle
Height 6' 4" (1.93 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Don Cornelius was born on September 27, 1936 in Chicago, Illinois, USA as Donald Cortez Cornelius. He was a writer and producer, known for Nutty Professor II: The Klumps (2000), Soul Train (1971) and Tapeheads (1988). He was married to Viktoria Chapman and Delores Harrison. He died on February 1, 2012 in Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles, California, USA.

Spouse (2)

Viktoria Chapman (3 December 2001 - 2009) ( divorced)
Delores Harrison (1956 - ?) ( divorced) ( 2 children)

Trade Mark (4)

Old Fashioned Round Spectacles
Closed the show with the catchphrase - "We Wish You Love, Peace & Soul!"
Always used a microphone widescreen.
Deep voice

Trivia (85)

Ex-father-in-law of Amy Hunter.
In the mid-1960s, WVON Radio personality Ed Cobb was pulled over by Chicago Police officer Don Cornelius. When Officer Cornelius asked him typical traffic stop questions, Cobb noticed his unique speaking voice. Cobb told him that he was in the wrong profession, and suggested that Cornelius come down to the radio station and make a demo tape. Cornelius took him up on it, and was hired as an announcer.
He began and hosted Soul Train (1971) on October 2, 1971. It became the longest-running first-run syndicated show in the history of television.
Sentenced to three years of probation after pleading no contest to misdemeanor spousal battery [March 21, 2009].
Lived not too far from Demi Moore.
He once danced with Mary Wilson on the Soul Train (1971) line, throughout the show's 35-year-run.
His show Soul Train (1971) was inspired by American Bandstand (1952), a show that featured a variety of bands that was hosted by Dick Clark.
Graduated from DuSable High School in Chicago, Illinois, in 1954.
One-time guest on Soul Train (1971), Arsenio Hall was said to be a teenage television hero of Cornelius'.
Went to the same high school as Eddie Harris, Joseph Jerman, Julien Priester, and Ronnie Boykins.
As a teen, Jody Watley was a Soul Train (1971) dancer.
He joined the United States Marine Corps and served 18 months in Korea.
He held several jobs before he was a TV host, including: liquor store clerk, insurance salesman, Chicago police officer, DJ, news reporter, and announcer.
Used $400 of his money to produced and create Soul Train (1971).
Hosted Soul Train (1971) for 22 of the show's 35 years. In that time, he introduced many unfamiliar artists to a larger audience, including: Gladys Knight (his first guest), Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Barry White, Melba Moore, Al Green, Donna Summer, and Mariah Carey.
Once had a brain tumor and underwent a successful 21 hour brain surgery. [November 12, 1982].
He died the same day as David Peaston, who gave one of his first professional performances on national television on Soul Train (1971).
Grandfather of Christina Marie.
Father of Tony Cornelius.
Best remembered by the public as the host of Soul Train (1971).
During his last years, he suffered seizures.
Gladys Knight was his very first guest on Soul Train (1971).
Was inducted posthumously into the Illinois Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2012.
Was honored at the Chicago Cultural Center by Bruce Dumont in 1998.
He named Soul Train (1971) after a promotional event he put together in 1969.
Cornelius retired from hosting Soul Train (1971) in 1993, at the end of its 22nd season.
Mentor and friend of Shemar Moore.
Longtime friend of Gladys Knight and Aretha Franklin.
Upon his death, he was cremated and his ashes were given to his family.
Was a close personal friend of Rev. Al Sharpton for over 35 years, since Sharpton was a teenager. Sharpton was a guest on Soul Train (1971).
He was known to be a very private man.
Mystro Clark, Shemar Moore, and Dorian Gregory, who hosted Soul Train (1971) after Cornelius retired, watch the show when they were growing up.
Cornelius sold the rights to the Soul Train (1971) library to MadVision Entertainment, whose principal partners came from the entertainment and publishing fields. The price and terms of the deal were not disclosed. [May 2008].
He was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Television at 7060 Hollywood Blvd. in Hollywood, California on February 27, 1997.
Cornelius moved to Los Angeles, California, in 1971 to career as a television personality. He also moved Soul Train (1971) out there, with his staff and crew.
Had confided the creation of the show with his lifelong friend, George O'Hare.
Just before Cornelius died, he appeared on Unsung (2008) with Full Force, who had been a guest on Soul Train (1971).
He met Delores Harrison, his first wife, in high school.
Chicago radio disc jockey, Sid McCoy met Cornelius when they both worked at WVON. He was the announcer on Soul Train (1971), and was friends with Cornelius until McCoy died in 2009.
He was inspired to produce Soul Train (1971), after he visited high schools that had dance parties for local talented artists.
Was involved in the writing, producing and working behind the scenes on Soul Train (1971). Cornelius would introduce recordings of hits and the 10 to 15 couples crammed into the studio would dance to them. The hour-long program also featured musical guests who would lip-synch in front of a low-relief sculpture of an oncoming train.
He wanted to be the black Dick Clark, when he was hosting Soul Train (1971).
Cornelius was an avid fan of The O'Jays, and invited them on Soul Train (1971), many times.
He lived in Chicago for his first 35 years of his life.
When young singer Toni Basil spoke to him about Soul Train (1971), Cornelius would weed out white performers. She didn't think his show was too hot.
Cornelius frequently asked musical guests to come back to play a second time, near the end of every Soul Train (1971) episode, before the commercial breaks.
When Tribune Entertainment, Soul Train (1971)'s longtime contract distributor, went out of business, his production company soon secured a deal with Trifecta Entertainment & Media in December 2007.
On an episode of American Idol (2002), host Ryan Seacrest paid tribute to him, along with another television host and good friend, Dick Clark, who died 2 1/2 months after him. [18 April 2012].
Ron Kersey, keyboardist of The Trammps, invited O'Bryan, a young, unfamiliar artist to join a group he was putting together. That group quickly folded, and Kersey later introduced O'Bryan to Cornelius, with whom Kersey formed Friendship Producers Company. He took the artist to Capitol Records, where O'Bryan released four albums that charted on the Billboard R&B charts. He also performed Soul Train (1971)'s theme song from 1983 to 1987.
The first white performer on Soul Train (1971) was José Feliciano.
Cornelius was relatively conservative in his musical taste. He didn't like hip hop genre, believing that the genre did not reflect positively on African-American culture (one of his stated goals for the series).
Dick Clark, launched Soul Unlimited to compete directly with Soul Train (1971). Cornelius, with help from Jesse Jackson, openly accused Clark of trying to undermine TV's only Black-owned show. ABC canceled it after a few episodes. Clark later agreed to work with Cornelius on a series of network specials featuring R&B and soul artists.
Cornelius left WVON to host Soul Train (1971) on WCIU.
As of 2016, he is the longest-serving host of Soul Train (1971).
Longtime friend Richard Pryor had guest-hosted Soul Train (1971) once, in Cornelius's absence.
Don Cornelius committed suicide on February 1, 2012, at age 75. Whitney Houston, one of his Soul Train (1971) guests, died just 10 days later, the night before the Grammys.
When Rosie Perez auditioned for the show, Cornelius detested her dancing. After Perez was fired from the show, he grabbed her. She grabbed a piece of chicken wing from the lunchbox and hit him in the head, then she was escorted out.
Cornelius appeared in court and was charged with spousal abuse and dissuading a witness from filing a police report. Cornelius appeared in court again, and pleaded not guilty to spousal abuse and was banned from going anywhere near his estranged wife, Russian model Victoria Avila-Cornelius (Viktoria Chapman), who had obtained two restraining orders against him. [December 4, 2008].
It was Cornelius's call for his show, Soul Train (1971), to do 'The Soul Train Line.' When he was younger, he used to attend the parties where teenagers used to dance in a single line.
He reconciled with Rosie Perez before his death.
He didn't like to do interviews.
Both Smokey Robinson and Stevie Wonder attended his funeral.
He met songwriting team Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff in 1969, when he was working at WCIU-TV. They later came up with the theme song to the Soul Train (1971) series, "TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)." It was used from 1973 to 1975, and an updated version was used from 1987 to 1993.
At one point, he tried to recruit former Soul Train (1971) dancer, Rosie Perez, into a female vocal trio with Cheryl Song, and a white dancer-singer. She couldn't sing, and didn't sign the contract.
When he saw George O'Hare at Sears-Roebuck And Co., he sat down and without any interruptions whispered in O'Hare's ear, Soul Train (1971). When he heard Cornelius's whisper, O'Hare put the phone down, told his secretaries to hold all of his calls, and gave Cornelius the job.
When the show's theme song was released as a single, Cornelius refused to allow any references to Soul Train (1971), so Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff changed the name. The Three Degrees' don't sing the show's name on the single.Cornelius later admitted the decision was a major mistake on his part.
His son Tony Cornelius and lifelong friend Gladys Knight were his caregivers during his last days.
His arrest with domestic violence, the divorce, along with a combination of health problems, all of which led to his suicide.
Radio disc jockey Howard Stern went to visit him on Soul Train (1971), off-camera, once. Cornelius had gone to see the band that was finishing its set, during a live session, and asked the band "Why don't you introduce yourselves?," the question he asked every band member, every show.
His son Tony Cornelius also worked on Soul Train (1971), with him, eventually becoming production assistant and coordinator.
Cornelius stepped down as Soul Train (1971) in 1993, after 22 seasons. He still worked behind the scenes. For the next 4 years, the show had a series of special guest hosts, including Kristoff St. John and T'Keyah Crystal Keymáh. Comedian and avid fan Mystro Clark, replaced Cornelius as permanent host until late in 1999, when Shemar Moore, took over for Clark.Dorian Gregory was the last permanent host.
After Cornelius' passing, many of the former Soul Train dancers got together at Maverick's Flat in Los Angeles, California, which is one of the many clubs the early dancers would dance at, to celebrate his memory and Soul Train.
Originally, Soul Train (1971) had only black dancers and performers.
Soul Train (1971) refused to copy off American Bandstand (1952), another dance show.
When Soul Train (1971) was sold in 2006, at the end of its 35th year, Cornelius was both pleased and disappointed. He was very pleased because it was time, and when a person sells something he has been with for so long, it's hard to let go. He wasn't really sure that the new owners would take care of it the way he took care of it, and as he always told his son Tony Cornelius, if any mistakes that were made people would look at him, not anyone else. But after selling the brand, it was up to the new owners. He was concerned where it was going next. Soul Train (1971) was all he knew.
He had talked about the difficulty of securing advertisers.
He was a Democrat and a conservative.
After he opened the Soul Train Studios in Los Angeles, California, he invited his former Soul Train (1971) dancer, Jody Watley, to be a dance instructor. She gave private lessons to Aretha Franklin.
Cornelius had plans to make a movie about Soul Train (1971).
In 1985, Cornelius teamed up with Tribune Entertainment for the continuation of Soul Train (1971), and stayed through until its cancelation.
One week before his suicide, he had lunch with a former Motown Records chairman, Clarence Avant. At that time, he wasn't very despondent or depressed.
While he somewhat reluctantly but warmly embraced disco, before dance/pop music, he had high doubts on rap and hip hop music, which he thought he was condescending.
Four months before he died, Cornelius attended the 40th Anniversary of Soul Train (1971), at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, California. Former dancer, Jody Watley, was sitting on the panel with him.

Personal Quotes (19)

We can't make it important to anybody else. Some of the audience we serve doesn't really care about what you did yesterday and you have to be cognizant of that ... But it's important to us.
It's always a pleasure to find something that matters.
[About the dancers who care about the music he recorded on Soul Train (1971)]: I figured as long as the music stayed hot and important and good, that there would always be a reason for 'Soul Train.'
[on Soul Train (1971)'s success]: We just seem to be surrounded on this anniversary show by all of our personal favorites. I have to say that in the first person, because they're my personal favorites.
[on selling Soul Train (1971) in 2008]: The Soul Train legacy and brand are of the utmost importance to me and to Soul Train's millions of fans. After years of offers, I feel the time is now finally right to pass the torch. The MadVision team understands and respects my vision, and they share my own commitment to seeing the brand rise to the next level.
[on the death of Barry White in 2003]: There was no match for Barry White. His music is just going to live forever. It's not limited to disco or soul or hip-hop or anything.
[When he went to divorce court]: I am 72 years old. I have significant health issues. I want to finalize this divorce before I die.
[Who remained grateful to the musicians who made Soul Train (1971), a pop culture African-American show]: The show remains vibrant because the songs are. I figured as long as the music stayed hot and important and good, that there would always be a reason for 'Soul Train.'
[Who toyed with the idea of a Soul Train channel]: We came to the conclusion that we came along a little late to make it happen. There's also the problem of whether or not I had the energy to start something of that magnitude from scratch.
[When he was growing up in Chicago, he responded about his first exposure to racism]: I didn't really have that much. There were some neighborhoods a few blocks away that you couldn't go in because you might run into some violence that you weren't ready for. But as far as racism directly coming in my direction, not really.
The '70s and '80s were just the period during which the best soul music was created and the best records were done. Whenever I walk into a store or any kind of environment, these kinds of songs from that period still play and I wonder if it's a "Soul Train" tape. Because during those two decades, we were on top of them all in one way or another, either presenting the guests or playing the records. We were just flat out in love with the music. That was the period when soul music grew up. It was born in the '50s and '60s, but it became sophisticated during that era. Record stores were cropping up and Motown emerged to allow the music to cross over to the point where all cultures were listening to soul music. It was an incredible time. Chicago had Curtis Mayfield, the Chi-Lites; Philadelphia had Gamble and Huff; Memphis had Stax; Detroit had Motown; and all of that started to blossom in the 70s.
[When asked in 2010, if he watched television]: Not much, but I still catch things now and then. It's a different world now. I can watch the "Today Show" and "Good Morning America," and I can get to see major stars -- nothing really slips by. I turned on Letterman one night and Eminem and Jay-Z were performing together and they were so good. The acceptance of music on a total media basis is much more developed now, it's much more available. When we started, we were the only program that a certain genre of artist could get exposure on.
I've been accused of not being up on hip-hop or not being a fan of hip-hop, which was never true. If you had a following and you were charting in the major industry magazines - Billboard, and before that Cash Box - we had a commitment that "Soul Train" was yours. And we lived up to that. We saw ourselves as a mirror of what black radio was doing. That whole criteria was part of what kept us going so long.
[Who said in 1974 about his connection with a friend in coming up with Soul Train (1971)]: The man at Sears was George O'Hare, a merchandise manager for a group of five stores, all of which were located in Chicago's inner city. He was a very socially conscious man that was deeply concerned with getting behind a 'community-type' show. George was a guy that people bounced ideas off and was always receptive to new concepts. When I went in I expected him to tell me what so many others had said about programming for blacks. This is the theory that blacks 'need' cultural or historical programs and not necessarily entertainment. There are whites you can go to with a black history idea and they will get behind it because they feel it's what blacks need. Perhaps it is what we need more of on the air, however, it is not necessarily what blacks want. And you can't force people to accept something they don't want, whether it's good for them or not.
You want to do what you're capable of doing. If I saw Dick Clark's 'American Bandstand' and I saw dancing and I knew black kids can dance better; and I saw white artists and I knew black artists make better music; and if I saw a white host and I knew a black host could project a hipper line of speech, and I did know all these things, then it was reasonable to try.
[About his risky brain surgery]: You choose your brain surgeons for their stamina. You're never quite the same afterward. Travel is always a real test.
[If he was friends with the guests he made on Soul Train (1971)]: Most of the artists that had done the show more than a few times considered me a personal friend and I considered most of them personal friends, going back to Curtis Mayfield and the Chi-Lites and people I kinda grew up in the business with in Chicago, to the great stars of Motown, and all of the major stars. People like Aretha Franklin, yeah, I had been to their homes as well.
[Who talked about the debut of Soul Train (1971)]: My experience producing the show in Chicago gave me the confidence of almost knowing what the viewer reaction to the syndicated version of 'Soul Train' would be even before it was aired. Because of Chicago I knew something that most of my doubters didn't know, and when they smirked, I smiled. I also knew [Johnson Products president] George Johnson's criteria for quality and I was determined to attain it no matter what the cost. As I look back I realize that my insistence on perfection occasionally annoyed people.
[In 1995]: 'Soul Train' was developed as a radio show on television. It is the radio show that I always wanted and never had. I selected the music -- and still do -- by simply seeing what had chart success, and beyond that what is being played on the radio. That's another reason for its staying power: we don't tray to be heroes, as far as playing songs that we like but no one else is playing.

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